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It’s All In The Name

Children’s writers all know what constitutes a chapter book or chapbook. After all, many writers create those delightful books for the young reader. A few short chapters welcome the child into the expanded world of books for confident readers. Think back to the Frog and Toad books of childhood.

Yet, many children’s writers may have overlooked a relative newcomer to the publishing market. A decade or so ago, an emergence began of a revamped version of the historically relevant Chapbook. So begins the confusion for beginning children’s writers everywhere.

I discovered the genre in an article appearing in Poets & Writers Magazine, Sept./Oct., 2009 issue. I’m sure that somewhere in the back of my brain I must have a faint recollection of such a genre, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.

P&W’s article explores the genre up to and including how to create your own small volume. Tips include; types of bindings, number of usual pages, and particulars on marketing. It’s a fascinating piece. Reviews of Chapbooks can be had for the looking, simply by going to Amazon.com. There are also links to and interviews with authors. In fact, according to Amazon, one such book made it all the way to the NY Times Best-Seller List.

The problem lies in the fact that this much older form of writing and publishing also went by the name Chap Book or Chapbook. It began centuries ago so that writers could get their work out to the public. Those writers used the form for poetry, lyrics, essays, folktales, fairy tales, etc. There’s a rumor that the Brothers Grimm began with these tiny handmade books.

These books have begun plugging a large hole in the mainstream publishing industry. Small presses, too, publish these books all over the United States and England. Individual writers self-publish their efforts as well. Much of this writing centers on poetry or personal essays. These usually four by six-inch volumes are beginning to make an impact.

But a question begs asking. What does the children’s writer do about the name confusion? Can he/she do anything? Of course, any of these writers could publish their own chapbook for the child who hasn’t read the story about The Great Blizzard That Buried New York. In truth, such books of children’s poetry are out there in the marketplace already.

Also, when querying a publisher, how does the writer describe his/her manuscript? Perhaps, “Dear Editor, please accept this manuscript of chapter book length.”

I have nothing against the method or purpose of the modern version of history’s Chapbooks for the reading public. On the contrary, I think it’s another practice of the past being revived for the sake of the profession and its market. I just wish those tiny tomes of literary endeavor had a different name.

Perhaps, children’s writers could devise a different name for their own efforts. There’s always Ever-After-Books, the books that change a child’s reading ability forever. Or, Big-Kids-Books. That’s self-explanatory.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that those time-confused interlopers of literary exploitation will disappear from the industry soon. Unfortunately, I’m willing to believe that in today’s time-conscious world, the little gems will make themselves right at home, and we’ll all soon be carrying them with us as true pocketbooks.

Hey, there it is! The real name of those little books – Pocketbooks! I wonder if anyone will notice how that name got borrowed from the past, too?

Well, there you have it. My thought for the day. I’m sure some enterprising publisher somewhere will take these wee books and provide them for the developing world of the e-book enthusiasts, if they haven’t already.

Until next time, a bientot,



























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